(Arguably) The Greatest Free Writing Instruction Resource on the Internet

A Quick Note from Matt: Happy spring, everyone! I’ve got a short one for you today, as between a couple of very exciting writing projects (more on those really soon), the end of the quarter push, and a couple plagues descending on our house via my daughters’ day care, March hasn’t made much room for blogging. What today’s post lacks in length it makes up for in practicality, as the resource shared within it regularly saves me a lot of time. Thanks as always for reading, and I hope you enjoy!

I was talking to a regular reader of the blog yesterday and she reminded me about a topic I’ve meant to mention for sometime: Allison Marchetti, Rebekah O’Dell, and the work they have done concerning mentor texts. For those not familiar with the term mentor text, the basic idea behind them is that to grow as writers we need to write a lot and get direct instruction, but we also need to closely read both professional and student work on a regular basis in all of the genres we require students to write. Reading these “mentor” texts is essential because they teach our students lessons about form, audience, genre conventions, voice, style, and organization that can’t really be gotten through direct instruction. Continue reading “(Arguably) The Greatest Free Writing Instruction Resource on the Internet”

Zen and the Art of Paper Grading

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Last Wednesday I woke to a soft quilt of fluffy snow outside my window. It looked like about three inches, which would not be enough to cancel a school in Michigan but would be enough to turn my normally five minute commute into a fifty minute one. The reason for this is one light on one hill that I have to go through. When the road gets coated in snow or ice, cars stopped at that light struggle to move on the incline when the light turns green. They spin their tires, weave side to side, and ultimately a couple are able to get up enough speed before the light turns red and the whole process begins anew.

As I sat in the backup, my thoughts turned to another bottleneck that I live with every day: the fact that as a writing teacher, I need to respond to student writing if I want them to grow as writers, but I have 33 kids in each class. In a 5 section load, that is 165 kids whose papers need my feedback. Even if I were to respond in the relatively fast time of 10 minutes per paper, it would take me 27.5 additional hours beyond my prepping, planning, meetings, and emails to respond to all of them. And that is just for one paper. Continue reading “Zen and the Art of Paper Grading”

Using Writing as a Tool to Figure out a Difficult World

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Last weekend I opened my computer in the hopes of getting some grading done, and then I saw the following headline in The New York Times: “Trump Suggests Giving Bonuses to Trained and Armed Teachers.” At the sight of this, I closed my computer and opened my journal.

I’m still not sure exactly what it was about that specific headline that inspired a sudden need to write. The last few weeks have seen a flurry of headlines involving guns, schools, and politics coming before the well-being of students and teachers, but for some reason the article stirred up something inside me that I needed to sort out before moving on with my day.

Now, I want to make it clear that I don’t bring this up in an effort to make a political point. There is already an incredible array of statements on shootings and schools, ranging from this powerful op-ed in Education Week to Kelly Gallagher’s unit on mass shootings. And while I did write a piece on school shootings, I did it solely for me as an effort to understand and unpack my own feelings.

The reason I bring this up is that I think it is important to remember that we write for a lot of reasons. While many of those reasons involve audiences, many do not. People have been filling mole skins with musings and diaries with their darkest worries since writing began, and most who do this don’t do it in an effort to build an audience, shift someone’s thinking, or get a good grade. Instead I would argue the majority of those who scrawl in journals late at night do it because writing is powerful personal medicine. It can clarify thinking, unlock thoughts, forge connections, and help us to understand a world that is not always nice and hardly ever clear.  Continue reading “Using Writing as a Tool to Figure out a Difficult World”